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beer-braised chicken carnitas tacos

“I can’t believe it’s not pork”

We eat a lot of chicken around here. It’s what we have on hand, and if we do say so ourselves, we raise a pretty delicious bird.

As a result we look for variety in the recipes we use in order to get different flavors and textures from whatever cuts we have at home.

This variation on carnitas is a favorite. It’s done in a single pot, a great low-and-slow recipe that uses time rather than effort to develop great flavor. Make a big batch of beer-braised chicken carnitas and have plenty for leftovers during the week.

Beer-Braised Chicken Carnitas:

4 Riverbird Farm chicken leg quarters, bone-in

1 tablespoon salt, more or less to taste

2 cloves garlic, lightly crushed

2 dried chiles, seeds removed. We use Puya chiles but many kinds work (Guajillo, New Mexico etc). Bonus if you toast the chiles lightly before using.

1 can light lager beer

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: Approx. 2 hours


Place the leg quarters, salt, garlic, chiles and beer into a pot or dutch oven. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Cook covered until the chicken is tender and falling off the bone, about 1½ hours.

step 1: chicken and other ingredients in pot before cooking


Uncover and use tongs to remove bones from the leg quarters. The meat should fall away easily. If you’re having to work for it, put the chicken back to simmer for another 30 minutes before removing bones.

step 2: cooked chicken falling off the bone in pot


With the pot uncovered, continue simmering to reduce liquid in the pot, about 30 more minutes. Stir occasionally to keep from sticking. The stirring will help the meat shred down as well. You can increase your heat slightly here to speed cooking time if you like. Cook until the liquid has fully reduced.

step 3: fully cooked and shredded chicken in pot


Once the liquid is reduced, stir gently for a few more minutes but avoid scraping the bottom to allow delicious crispy bits to form in the bottom of the pot. Reduce heat if needed to avoid burning.


Add water to deglaze, about ¼ - ½ c. Scrape up the browned bits that have formed and give the whole thing a final stir. Remove from heat.

Serve as is, or add one last step if you like them crispy:



Adjust oven rack to second-highest position and turn boiler to high. Transfer cooked carnitas to a metal sheet tray and place under broiler until crispy. Watch closely to avoid burning. Under our broiler, it takes about 5 minutes for ideal crispiness, but broilers vary widely so keep an eye on it.

Eat hot & enjoy!

beer-braised chicken carnitas tacos plated

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